It’s the moment when you open the refrigerator wondering whether to get something to eat.
It’s the moment in the morning where you’re about to decide whether or not to sleep a bit longer, or get up and meditate like you planned.
And it’s the moment when you’re about to say something you shouldn’t, or not say anything at all.
This moment is the most important moment in our lives – and we have dozens of them each day. When you harness the power of this in-between moment, your life, and your health, change in very subtle, incredible ways.
The Homer Simpson Effect
It’s Been Sabotaging My Life For Years
Just the other day, I looked down at my calendar during work and there was a big block that said “pay car lease.”
I’ve paid my lease half a dozen times before, and I know it only takes about three minutes – I just have to hit a few buttons since it’s automated, they already have my credit card, and then it’s done. Less than five minutes, and I just hit the follow through prompts.
It was such a simple task: just make the call and get it done with. Cross it off your list. Move on with your life. But the entire day elapsed without me making that call.
And then tomorrow the same thing happened.
And then Friday.
And then Monday rolled around – and unless I paid my lease within two days, I would get a late fee, a credit hit, and the outsourced team abroad would start calling me.
Finally, I paid it.
But I was puzzled for days after – why did it take me SO LONG, when it was such an easy task that I KNEW took three minutes?
I began noticing this effect in many other places in my life too.
Make breakfast? I already have the oatmeal and the eggs… but eh. I’ll just get it to go.
Do my laundry tonight? Eh. So much effort. (Despite the fact that it takes under two minutes to drop my clothes in the machine, which is ten steps from my bedroom).
Go to that event, even though I said I would? Ugh. Don’t feel like it tonight.
But here’s the thing: LOGICALLY, these things don’t take that much time. It takes less than THREE MINUTES to pay my lease by phone. I have all my car information saved, I just call the number, push 1 then 2 then 1 then 2 and it’s paid. Done.
So it clearly wasn’t my logical brain making this decision… so what gives?
This effect I call the “Homer Simpson” effect “Ehhh, I know I should do this, but I’m too lazy right now!” It defies all logic, and understanding it and harnessing it might just be the best-kept secret in the universe.
Noticing This Special “In-between” Moment
It’s the moment right before you step into the gym.
It’s the moment right before you make that great decision to cook at home tonight.
It’s the moment right before you decide to get that blueberry muffin at Starbucks.
It’s the moment right before you decide to eat some junk when your friend says, “Oh, live a little!”
This moment is the most important moment of our lives – because it’s the moment where our brain is caught in between two things: Should I do this? or should I not? Which path should I take?
Do I do what I said I would?
Or do I do what I want to do right now?
And there are dozens of factors influencing which decision we ultimately do make.
Think about it.
You’ll see this effect anywhere.
A few months back I promised myself i’d get religious about doing my finances, because I caught myself spending too much money on things that honestly weren’t that important to me.
But the in-between moments kept catching me and screwing me over:
I walked into the coffee shop, and there was a croissant in the morning. I knew it would taste delicious… and it was only $3. Get it? Or stick to the plan?
I stopped by the gas station and while I was pumping my gas I walked inside. There was a stand full of Cliff Bars. Do I get one? Or not? It’s only a few bucks.
When I went to the gym on the way out, they introduced a few new shakes that they had – fruit mixed with protein and a little bit of peanut butter. Just a couple dollars. Should I get it?
A dozen times a day I had this uncomfortable decision I had to keep making over and over – it was absurd. It was that sacred in-between moment.
There’s a moment right when your partner or spouse says something that bothers you or is hurtful, that moment, and then you respond:
Do you say something nasty back? Do you try to defend yourself?
Or do you just say, “okay” and do what you have to do?
When it comes time to do the dishes, that’s another moment.
Do I grunt and groan? Or do I just get it done?
There’s also the sunday morning effect. For many religious people, this is a peak, enjoyable day since it involves social activity… but many people in middle and older age tend to find themselves isolated on Sunday mornings.
Lots of younger people find this as a lazy day, but yet again there’s the moment.
Do I push the TV button? Or do I quickly get dressed and pop out to that favorite cafe since I know it’ll make me more productive and happy?
It really only takes a split second to make that decision, but we all know that once we plop down in front of the TV it’s game over.
We’ve all felt this one.
I’m in the parking lot of the gym. But I’m tired as hell… just had a LONG day at work with the annoying type-A boss. The absolute LAST freaking thing I want to do is drag my tired self through those gym doors.
Do I do it? Or do I go home?
I’m sitting in the Italian restaurant for lunch. It’s a business lunch and everyone around me is drinking beer and wine and getting carb-filled pasta plates.
It’s that moment. Do I get the same or do I get the poached salmon served over the greens with some rice, and red wine instead?
Here’s another moment. You’re walking down the streets of your local city, and you see a beggar child next to you.
“I should really give him some money” you think, but you keep walking anway this time.
That moment right there – Should I give him some money? – is that moment, which determines everything about the trajectory of our lives. If we’re present in those in between moments, we can make the decisions that push us to higher levels of fulfillment, closer to the goals we want for our health and our lives.
The Two-Part Habit to Master Your Super Power
First – notice it.
Remember that there will be a hundred things today – a hundred of those moments – where we are going to have to decide. And yeah, we’re going to have to decide even when we feel like crap, when we’re tired, when life isn’t going well, and even when we just want to crawl under a rock and hibernate for a few months.
Notice it during the day when you encounter health choices – do this now, or do it later; eat this, or eat that; do this for five minutes or do it for ten minutes; keep going, or stop?
Notice it in conversations with people – am I saying what I really want to say and doing what I need to do – or am I pausing and letting that moment overtake me?
Observe it throughout the day. Watch yourself when you walk in the coffee shop a bit hungry in the morning – the cupcakes, doughnuts, banana bread, and pastries will be enticing you.
The moment before the decision is that moment. The moment where it all changes.
Second – cultivate the “DIN” philosophy.
This philosophy – DIN – means do it now.
And this do it now philosophy (for things that takes less than 5 minutes) has totally changed my life.
It functions the same way email works – it comes in, you don’t want to answer it, but then what? It just sits there and piles up. Delete it or respond, then move on. Otherwise you’re not making progress and the inbox becomes ridiculous overwhelming.
Wake up a few minutes earlier to meditate. Wake up, groggy, tired. UGH. I know I should meditate but…. that moment enters… what’s the right thing? Meditate. DO IT NOW.
I’m at the coffee shop and I didn’t have breakfast. The coffee smells great. I see a blueberry muffin… now THAT looks good. That moment enters… What’s the right thing? Get away quickly. DO IT NOW (Run away).
My spouse has a conversation with me and tells me I’m not doing the dishes like I should. That moment enters… What’s the right thing? Just do the dishes. DO IT NOW
Beating Homer Simpson Syndrome
“C’mon Alex are you kidding? How is one TINY moment going to really negatively affect my life that much?”
I know. It sounds crazy.
But think about it as you go through your daily routine today – tell me if there isn’t at least a bit of truth to it.
Here’s the bottom line:
1 – Notice the inbetween moments like that.
2 – Begin slowly cultivating the “do it now” philosophy. Remind yourself that it doesn’t take much time, and you have no idea why you’re procrastinating. DO IT.